Immunity Boosting Foods That A Nutritionist Recommends

June 11, 2018

One of the most important ways to stay healthy is to develop habits that strengthen your immune system. This means getting enough sleep, managing stress, being active, washing your hands properly, and yes, eating well. While there is no food or supplement that can “cure” or even 100% prevent you from catching viruses like coronavirus or the flu, some foods have been shown to help boost the immune system. Right here are 16 top choices and how to incorporate each into your regular eating routine.

Citrus fruits and red bell peppers
Vitamin C is a superstar nutrient found in citrus and is known for its role in supporting the immune system. While vitamin C does not prevent disease, it has been studied in people with respiratory infections and benefits have been seen primarily in those with less-than-optimal blood levels.

It’s unclear if this is partly a cause or consequence, but the research does seem to support the goal of consuming about 200 mg per day to prevent infections. This is the amount shown in the study to saturate the body, meaning that any more vitamin C would be eliminated. A medium orange provides 70 milligrams, a grapefruit contains nearly 90 milligrams, and a medium raw red bell pepper packs 150 milligrams. Eat citrus as is or with nuts and scoop hummus or guacamole with red bell pepper slices.

Sunflower seeds and almonds
In addition to vitamin C, vitamin E also plays a key role in immunity. This fat-soluble vitamin promotes immune cell activity to support the body’s ability to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. An ounce of sunflower seeds or a quarter cup of sunflower seeds can provide half of the daily recommended target vitamin E. Serve with fresh fruit or whip sunflower seeds or almond butter into a smoothie.

Sweet potatoes and carrots.
These vegetables are the main source of beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. This nutrient helps the immune system fight bacteria and viruses by helping to produce white blood cells. It also helps form the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, which act as a protective barrier to keep germs out of the body. One baked sweet potato can pack more than 150 percent of your daily vitamin A goal, and one cup of raw carrots can pack more than 100 percent of the recommended intake. Top baked sweet potatoes with nuts or seeds, and eat carrots with a healthy dip like Nutella or tahini.

Brazil nuts and sardines.
Too little of the mineral selenium delays the immune response, while adequate selenium boosts the immune system. Selenium is also a powerful antioxidant, which means it acts like a bodyguard, preventing cells from attacking and damaging DNA.One ounce of Brazil nuts, about six to eight whole nuts, provides nearly 1,000 percent of the daily value of selenium. Three ounces of sardines can provide more than 80 percent of the selenium. Pop the Brazil nuts as is or chop them up and add them to oatmeal or cooked vegetables. Toss sardines with vegetables, tomato sauce and pasta, or add to salads.

Baked Beans and Pumpkin Seeds
Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system. When zinc intake is low, the production of certain immune cells is limited, and adequate zinc is critical to the proper development and function of the immune system. One cup of vegan baked beans can provide more than half of your daily recommended intake of zinc, and one ounce or quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains 20 percent of zinc. Combine the two: choose baked beans as your protein source, pair them with cooked vegetables, and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

The natural compound curcumin in turmeric gives turmeric its vibrant color and is a potent anti-inflammatory compound. Curcumin has also been shown to increase the activity of immune cells and enhance antibody responses. The combination of turmeric and black pepper significantly increases the bioavailability of curcumin. Sprinkle the turmeric-black pepper combination on smoothies, soups, broths, or cooked vegetables.

Dried sour cherries

The high antioxidant content in dried cherries has been linked to boosting the immune system, including reducing the risk of upper respiratory symptoms. Because they contain natural melatonin, they also contribute to healthy sleep, which is important because studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after exposure to a virus. Eat them as they are, or stir them into a nut butter and eat them with a spoon.

In addition to being one of the top anti-inflammatory foods, walnuts also contain several nutrients that play a role in supporting the immune system, including vitamins E and B6, copper, and folic acid. Studies have also shown that walnuts can reduce mental stress, and unchecked stress can weaken the immune system. Pair walnuts with dried tart cherries as a snack, or chop them up to garnish fresh fruit or cooked vegetables.


Studies lend credence to garlic’s immune support capabilities. In an earlier study, 146 volunteers were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or garlic supplement daily for 12 weeks throughout the cold season. Compared to the placebo group, the garlic group had significantly fewer colds and recovered more quickly if they did get infected.

Newer studies have confirmed that aged garlic extracts may enhance immune cell function. In the study, healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 50 received either a placebo or aged garlic extract for 90 days. While there was no difference in the number of illnesses between the groups, those who received the garlic had lower cold severity, fewer symptoms, and fewer missed days of work or school. Reach for fresh garlic cloves instead of supplementing. Add them to cooked vegetables, soups or broths.

Pomegranate juice.
Pure pomegranate juice is another food that supports immunity through its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity. The flavonoid antioxidants in pomegranate juice have also been shown to fight viruses and reduce the duration of colds by 40%. Sip pomegranate juice in water or chamomile tea, blend it into a smoothie, or freeze it in BPA-free molds with mashed bananas and ginger root to make a popsicle.

Green vegetables
Green vegetables provide anti-inflammatory antioxidants and key nutrients that contribute to immune system function, including vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid. They also provide bioactive compounds that release chemical signals to optimize immunity in the gut, which is home to 70-80% of immune cells. Use EVOO to sauté vegetables with garlic, turmeric, and black pepper, or add them to soups. You can also blend leafy greens, such as kale or spinach, into smoothies.